July 2, 2012

This entry is the first of many guest bloggers.  Zev is the Director of Development here at Pilot Projects, a poet and a life-long enthusiast of the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Hey Brooklyn Bridge Forest Fans-

I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge twice yesterday. Once in the early evening with the Poets House and once by myself with the Ghost of Old Walt Whitman and all the other Ghosts of New York to keep me company.

It is so interesting being in that rainbow space above the East River, a space that until about 130 years ago was only occupied by the mists, wind and birds. Since the creation of the bridge millions of people have walked through that space, crossing the river for trade or inspiration, gathering sustenance of one sort or another. My grandparents Max and Yetta crossed it to move from the tenements of the Lower East Side into a building they bought in Brooklyn to help their family survive during the depression. From there my family grew and moved out across America until nearly 70 years later I moved back to the Lower East Side from California and now I get to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with my ghosts; and all the Ghosts.

We started the Poets House walk on the Manhattan side. We were by city hall and heard a couple of short speeches by the director of the Poets House Lee Bricetta, poet Thomas Lux and my city council person Margaret Chin. There were also a couple of Poems read by the poet Marie Howe. We heard her read “Brooklyn Bridge” by Lola Ridge (great rhyme) and “Steps” by Frank O’Hara. Then it was off across the Bridge.

I love the walk part of this event. We start out as mostly strangers and by the time we get to Brooklyn we have formed all sorts of bridges together. I talked with some other poets about the promenade and the idea of its next replacement being done with sustainable hardwoods through a possible Brooklyn Bridge Forest. The folks I talked to were very open to the idea and took my BBF cards so that they could get more information (and inspiration) from the website. We also talked about the current construction and rehab of the bridge which was everywhere in evidence.

We stopped at the first arch and heard more poetry. Ted Berrigan’s “Whitman In Black” (love that poem), Muriel Rukeyser’s “O City” and “Untitled”. We also heard Audre Lord’s “Bridge Through My Window” and Hart Crane’s “Poem: To Brooklyn Bridge” The poets Sharon Olds and Tracy K Smith did a terrific job reading above the noise of the roadway.

On the walk down to the Brooklyn side I took pictures of the feet of the poet walkers on the promenade. The first picture is of Bill Murray’s feet. He laughed when he saw me take a picture of his feet instead of his face.

The walk ended at the Ferry Landing in Brooklyn where for the seventeenth year in a row we heard the great poet Galway Kinnell read Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”.


After the Reading we all headed to dinner and more readings at Bubby’s of Brooklyn. Galway received the Elizabeth Kray award and he read a new poem called “Astonished”. It was astonishing! My favorite poem reading of the night! We had great dinner and all the poets read again. Bill Murray finished the reading with some great oral interpretation of some Wallace Stevens poems.

As we left, we got a great goody bag full of, yes you guessed it, more poetry!

I walked home slowly with the lights of Mannahatta in front of me and the warm hills of Brookland behind me. And of course I wrote a poem:

brooklyn bridge forest

fragile stone people are hurrying scurrying raindrops home but i am on a walk to walk over the brooklyn bridge to smell the sea and hear poetry and to sing with the poets all the ayes all the masts intertwined with cables steel gray sky breathing with us as we amble and stride strive to hear the music the words the horn of the ferries bright beyond the underneath the promenade still stands fast greenheart of the fragile forest

zev keisch 6/12/12


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